It’s not an issue that most people dwell on, but septic tanks do fill up over time. Some people just stick with the cautious approach of getting the tank pumped every 3 years, and it’s required in some locations.
Of course, not everyone sticks with that schedule because it slips their minds or it’s not required where they live. It’s even trickier when you buy a home. Asking when the last septic pumping occurred isn’t high on most people’s list of questions to ask the old homeowner.
Before jumping into questions of when to pump, it’s helpful to answer the question: “What is a septic tank?”
What Is a Septic Tank?
A basic septic tank consists of an underground, waterproof tank. Common materials for the tanks include plastic, concrete, and fiberglass. Wastewater and organic waste from toilets, showers, and appliances get routed into the tank.
So, now that the wastewater and organic waste is in the tank, how does a septic tank work? In short, bacteria grow in the tank that breaks down fecal and other organic materials that settle to the bottom of the tank.
The water in the tank gets released into nearby soil called a septic drain field.
What Are the Signs Your Septic Tank Is Full?
Several signs will alert you that your septic tank is full or near to full. A couple of telltale signs include slow drains and odors coming out of drains. These signs can indicate other problems, so explore those possible solutions first.
You can also see more telling signs that the septic tank needs attention. Pooling water around your septic drain field often means the tank overflows when water enters the tank. An excessively healthy lawn around your septic tank or drain field often means that the tank is overflowing.
A sewage backup in your drains or toilets is almost always a sign that your tank needs immediate pumping.
How Does Septic Pumping Work?
Once you know that your tank needs pumping, you might wonder how the pumping itself works. Unlike many plumbing issues, septic pumping is a simple procedure.
A septic pumping service sends out a pumping truck. The crew digs down to the septic tank, open the top, and put a large hose or tube into the tank. The truck vacuums out the tank contents.
The crew may stir the contents occasionally to break apart sludge layers of grease or contents on the bottom. The crew may rinse and inspect the tank before they close it and restore the soil on top.
Knowing When It’s Time for a Septic Tank Pumping
Knowing when it’s the right time for septic tank pumping depends on a few factors.
Homes with more occupants will fill their septic tanks faster, which means you’ll need pumping sooner. You can watch for signs of a full tank. You can also just adopt a schedule of getting the tank pumped every few years.
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